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Ten tips

Get a clear picture of how to buy a jumbo-size TV

By LAURA T. COFFEY
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 5, 2002


Are you thinking about buying a giant-screen TV so you can have that movie-theater experience in the comfort of your home? Before you make such a big-ticket purchase, consider the following tips.

* * *

1. REAR-PROJECTION TVS ARE THE LEAST-EXPENSIVE OPTION. These televisions, which have screens that range in size from 42 to 70 inches, cost from $1,400 to $5,000 or more. Such sets usually beam images from three picture tubes to the back of the screen.

2. FRONT-PROJECTION TVS ARE PRICEY. If you're really after the theater experience, this option involves buying a projector for $5,000 to $30,000, setting it up on a table or mounting it from the ceiling, and beaming images onto a bare wall or a movie screen that you buy separately.

3. HOW MUCH SPACE DO YOU HAVE? Determine whether you have a room that's big enough to accommodate such a massive setup. Rear-projection TVs take up a lot of floor space. And regardless of which large-screen system you choose, you'll need to sit at least 7 to 12 feet away to enjoy decent picture quality.

4. THINK ABOUT YOUR VIEWING HABITS. Because jumbo sets are best viewed by sitting directly in front of them, it's difficult if not impossible to watch them while lying on the floor or sitting in a nearby room.

5. HOW BIG SHOULD YOU GO? To figure out which diagonal screen size is right for a given room in your home, calculate how far you'll be sitting from the screen in inches and multiply that number by 0.4.

6. STANDARD-DEFINITION VS. HIGH-DEFINITION-CAPABLE. Both types of sets can accept regular TV signals, while HD-capable TVs also can use digital broadcasting signals to provide a superior picture with a resolution nearly triple that of conventional broadcasts. As you shop around, judge HD-capable sets primarily by their standard-definition performance.

7. OPT FOR PROFESSIONAL INSTALLATION. Rear-projection TVs are less complicated to install than front-projection, but they still present a challenge because they weigh up to 325 pounds, they have myriad complex connections and the initial adjustment to converge the images from the three picture tubes can be a bear.

8. BRACE YOURSELF FOR SOME FRUSTRATIONS. Adjustments that are common on regular TVs often are more difficult on giant sets. Many rear-projection sets require you to converge the images manually, which can take hours depending on how exacting you are.

9. YOU HAVE OTHER OPTIONS. If all of this sounds like too much hassle, remember that a 27-, 32- or 36-inch set might be perfect for your home. Such TVs can easily be found for less than $1,000, and many good models are available for a few hundred dollars.

10. GET CONNECTED. No matter what kind of TV you decide to buy, examine how many and what kind of connections it has. These factors will affect the number of devices you'll be able to accommodate at the same time.

-- Sources: Consumer Reports and MSN eShop.

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